The Mighty Power of Music Therapy

The first time I had to set foot into the cancer treatment center, I was scared. I was in a place I never thought I would have to deal with in my life. I sit in the waiting room, and just like any other medical facility, it was quiet, with just the sound of soft music in the background, sounds of intercom calls to doctors, and the sound of pages being turned from the borrowed magazines from the other patients as they wait. sitting there, all you can really do is sit and think of the situation at hand. Since this was the first time I was going to undergo treatment, I was scared of so many things; how would it affect me, how it was going to feel, and would it work. Then after a while, or what seemed like hours, I finally got called in.

EleanorAfter talking with the doctors and nurses, I headed in for my first dose. The nurse who was helping me gave me a nice comforting hug, and said to me, “you are going to do just fine.” I guess I was not good at hiding my feelings after all. Then she noticed that I had my ipod with me, and asked me, “who do you like to listen to?” I told her that I love the old standards, and always wanted to be a crooner like Sinatra, Dean-O, or even Buble. She told me that she loved that thought, and that I should use that dream, and that music to help me during this time. So before I got started, I put my headphones in, and selected that playlist, and started to imagine that dream.

Through my time of battling cancer, I used music as a way to mellow me out, or even to give me energy, or drive to continue on. From the old standards, to Metallica and AC/DC, music was always in my ears. As a musician and theater major, I have always loved music, and as emotionally attached as I already was to it, it meant even more to me to use it to help in my medical and healing process.

We all have music that helps us in some sort of capacity. I have seen small children sing along with the TV as Elmo and the Sesame Street gang sing songs to teach them how to count or do their ABC’s. As teenagers, we dive into music that moves us, helps us through our emotions and to celebrate at dances, graduations and parties. And now as adults, we use music in so many ways in our lives. As a matter of fact, I am listening to music as I write this post! Music can helps us remember the past, enjoy the present moment, and to even ponder the future. It only goes to show that music is and will always be a part of our lives.

It seems that certain studies would agree that music can be a great healing tool. Recently, Medical News Today shared that music therapy is used to help many, and has even helped young cancer patients. Researchers conducted a study with young patients from 11-24 over a three-week period to see music had any effects as they started their treatments. Some of these patients were in the process of very difficult treatments such as stem-cell transplants. Though they were all going through these rigerous treatments, music helped keep their spirits up.

Some patients shared that the music therapy helped build improved relationships with friends and family, even after 100 days. These effects not only helped these patients, they helped the families to see what the patient was going through.  Dr. Joan Haase of Indiana University School of Nursing was quoted as saying,

“Adolescents and young people who are resilient have the ability to rise above their illness, gain as sense of mastery and confidence in how they have dealt with their cancer, and demonstrate a desire to reach out and help others.”

I would have to say that I am sure that not only the young patients benefit from music therapy during these types of moments. Many older patients reach for their favorite music, sing songs and even participate in events to help ease their pain, take their focus to a positive atmosphere, and to give them feelings of strength, courage, and determination.  Music was a part of my therapy, and I have to say, as a patient in remission, that was quite successful.

By Chris Haro